House GOP Incumbents Spent Hundreds of Thousands in Legal Fees to Head Off Crises

Roll Call

At least six House Republicans combined to spend more than $325,000 in campaign funds in the most recent quarter alone on legal or crisis management fees related to brewing scandals that have wended their way into the court of public opinion — and, in some cases, real courtrooms.

New York Rep. Chris Collins, whom federal authorities indicted on Aug. 8 on 10 counts related to insider trading and securities fraud, shelled out $30,980.25 from his campaign account to the D.C.-based law firm BakerHostetler just three days later. He made additional payments of $7,242.08 and $1,925 to the firm on Sept. 8, bringing his total legal bill to $40,147.33 for the third filing quarter that ended Sept. 30, according to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.  

Collins raised just $33,000 in the roughly two months that his campaign committee was actively fundraising last quarter. That means he spent $7,000 more on legal fees than he collected in total donations during the three-month period. 

The legal parameters for using campaign money on legal expenses are not as dicey as they may seem. Candidates cannot use campaign cash for personal legal expenditures — basically, legal questions unrelated to their status as a candidate. “If you get a DUI, for example, you can’t use campaign funds to pay for your attorneys,” said Brendan Fischer, a senior director at the Campaign Legal Center.

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